The organisers of a national march against white supremacy in the US have publicly apologised for scheduling their event on Yom Kippur.
The March for Racial Justice in Washington DC, which bills itself as a "multi-community movement led by a coalition united in our demands for racial equity and justice”, was publicly criticised for choosing September 30 as the date to march. As the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, most Jews will spend Yom Kippur fasting and praying in the synagogue, and will be unable to attend the march.
Mayim Bialik, star of the Big Bang Theory and a Jewish social activist, expressed her frustration in a Facebook post on Sunday.
“Just found out that the March for Racial Justice is on YOM KIPPUR in DC,” Ms Bialik wrote. “Anyone else think that's absurd? I mean, it automatically excludes a distinct portion of people who historically have stood up for racial equality in enormous ways… trust me: it's on every calendar they checked before setting the date… super mad right now.”
However, in a statement released on Wednesday, the organisers of the march said they had chosen the date because it was the anniversary of the 1919 Elaine Massacre in Arkansas, where more than 200 black men and women were murdered. They said they had not realised September 30 was Yom Kippur.
“Choosing this date, we now know, was a grave and hurtful oversight on our part," the organisers said. "It was unintentional and we are sorry for this pain as well as for the time it has taken for us to respond.”
The statement continued: “Our mistake highlights the need for our communities to form stronger relationships. After the horrifying events of the past weekend in Charlottesville, and the remarks by the President suggesting that 'both sides' are to blame, we understand more than ever the need for unity against those who hate us in our many identities.
“We have learned from our Jewish friends that Yom Kippur is a day of making amends and of asking and receiving forgiveness. We hope that our sincere apology will be received with compassion, and that we will build a stronger relationship among all our communities as a result.”
The organisers of the march also said they were “working on ways to include the Jewish community on Saturday September 30 after sundown and/or on Sunday October 1".
The statement continued: “We are marching in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters who are observing the holiest of days on the Jewish calendar. Holding fast to Jewish tradition is also an act of resistance, in the face of growing antisemitism.
“This is a long-term struggle and our relationship to each other transcends one day and one march. As we learn from this planning mis-step, we are working with Jewish leaders to make racial justice resources and prayers available for Yom Kippur observances in Jewish communities as well.
“We hope that on that holy day, Jews in synagogues across the country will pray for racial justice – lifting up black and brown people, Jewish and non-Jewish – in hope for safety and wholeness. Spiritual sustenance is an essential part of this work for justice. We’re committed to working together with the Jewish community throughout the year and every year until true justice for all of us is won”.